Stability rules (JERUSALEM POST EDITORIAL) 05/13/12)
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Labor MKs were among the first to attack the surprise coalition
agreement signed between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Kadima
head Shaul Mofaz.
Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich called it an “embodiment of
political evil.” MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer referred to our political
scene as “garbage.” MK Isaac Herzog termed the deal “an alliance of
The Labor lawmakers all conveniently omitted the fact that up until
January 2011, they were members of the very same government so
eminently worthy of their scorn. Ben-Eliezer and Herzog even held
Meanwhile, during a speech before the Rabbinical Assembly of the
Conservative movement in Atlanta, media-personality-turned-politician
Yair Lapid likened the new 94-member government coalition to the
government headed by former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
But while politicians can be forgiven their short memories and their
love for hyperbole, if not demagogy, other supposedly “objective”
figures were critical of the deal as well.
Israel Democracy Institute vice president Mordechai Kremnitzer
claimed that the “mammoth” coalition created as a result of the
incorporation of Kadima was “dangerous.”
Why would Kremnitzer, a proponent of stable governments that live out
their days, be opposed to the deal? And why would he consider it
According to Kremnitzer, the new coalition is too stable and can “do
as it pleases” without being challenged by an effective opposition.
Therefore, it is “dangerous.” Others have repeated Kremnitzer’s
argument without giving serious thought to its logic.
In reality, there is nothing better for the State of Israel right now
than a stable government that will survive its four-year-plus
mandate. Early elections would have been an unnecessary waste of
taxpayers’ money and would have postponed long-awaited and much
needed reforms, not to mention the disruption of multi-year
ministerial planning and the delay of the passage of the two-year
state budget for 2013-2014. Instead of gearing up for elections, our
lawmakers can focus on what they were voted into office to do.
As pointed out by Kremnitzer’s colleagues at the IDI, for the first
time since electoral reforms were first proposed just months after
the creation of the state by David Ben-Gurion, there is a real
opportunity to implement them. Measures such as raising the electoral
threshold from 2 percent, instituting regional elections and
increasing the number of MKs in the Knesset could all contribute to
future governments’ stability. And these changes can be pushed
through despite the opposition of smaller parties that stand to lose
There is also an opportunity to right the historic wrong of haredi
draft-dodging, preferably in cooperation with Shas and United Torah
Judaism, the two ultra-Orthodox parties in the government coalition.
Past attempts to change the practice according to which haredi
yeshiva students can defer mandatory military service indefinitely in
order to devote themselves to Torah studies have failed because
narrow government coalitions depended on haredi political parties’
support. And in the rare cases when a government did not include
haredi parties – such as Ariel Sharon’s February 2001 government – it
was considered openly antagonistic to haredi interests.
Now a unique situation has been created in which the High Court – not
a haredi-bashing politician – has ruled that the Tal Law violates the
principle of equality and therefore must be replaced.
The present government is broad enough that it cannot be toppled by
Shas and UTJ. Meanwhile, Shas and UTJ are members of the coalition,
which means they can directly influence the legislation if they
choose to compromise. This raises the risk that the resulting law
might get watered down. But it also increases the chances that the
haredi public will adhere to the law that is approved.
The inevitable give and take that will unfold during the Knesset
debate over the budget, election reform and the Tal Law replacement
will be an eminently democratic process. And it will be made possible
thanks to the deal clinched between Netanyahu and Mofaz. Claims that
a broad coalition is “dangerous” or “Ceausescu-like” are based more
on hyperbole and demagogy than on a rational analysis of the facts.
(© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 05/13/12)
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